My mum spent the weekend painting the kitchen.
She didn’t ask for much on Mother’s Day. Just a pot of paint and a phone call and we thought it best not to argue with her when she’s somewhere in the middle of a home improvement project. It’s the least us three kids could do after all these years.
But here’s the thing: nothing we do for our mothers will ever really be enough. Not because they demand it, but because the sum total of all our breathing moments cannot set right the sacrifices they have made in their own lives.
It was Tenneva Jordan who said: “A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
Mum was always saying how little she cared for pie. Or new clothes. Or a new dining table. She’s been a mother for 27 years and it has been a saga of compromise and doubt and going without.
We never did go without, of course. Her non-stop crusade of cutbacks only ever applied to herself so that her children might be afforded the same opportunities as other kids more privileged than us.
She’s a prodigious budgeter, but not even her devastating eye for detail in making savings around the house could give us everything we wanted for in terms of material possessions. Not all our clothes were brand name. Sometimes we didn’t get the new toy or the new video game. We didn’t go see all the movies we wanted.
No doubt this hurt her. No doubt she worried ‘did I do enough’?
Well, Mum, you did more than enough.
History is littered with the stories of children who had all the things money could buy but whom never enjoyed the true, constant, supercharged love of a mother who was proud of the children she helped raise.
I would have traded every game, book, piece of clothing, computer and possession if it meant I could secure that kind of person in my life. But I don’t need to, because I have you, Mum.
You’ve given each of us something beyond value. Yourself, our eternal advocate. But I’ll speak for myself.
You taught me to read and pushed me down the steep, steep slope of curiosity that would set me on my present course. I can’t stop this ride now and I don’t want to.
You taught me the ecstasy of my words and that they might be wielded to share our stories, help our friends and further our causes. You did that. You lit the fuse so that the rest of my days could be filled with this chaotic explosion of meaning and detail and wonder.
You loved me when others (probably quite sensibly) wouldn’t and you continued to be your quirky, oddball, silly self so that I might continue to mine the vast wealth of your escapades for my own tales.
So, no, the phone call and paint probably wasn’t enough of a thank you. So take these, my words, as my gift to you. It’s only right I returned them after all these years.
I remain, forever and always, impossibly in your debt.